Allen insists Limerick can be force of the future
Declan Hannon has been declared ready to play some part for Limerick against Tipperary in Sunday's Munster SHC opener.
Hannon, one of the stars of last year's championship campaign and a Munster U-21 medal winner, has been sidelined with a groin injury for the last three months. The injury did not require surgery, but Hannon has needed patience and care to get it right and only returned to training early last week.
Limerick manager John Allen has confirmed that the talented young forward will be available -- but won't be starting the match.
"He's had no side-effects since his return last week. He's available, but he definitely won't be starting," said Allen, preparing for his first championship campaign as Limerick manager since taking over from Donal O'Grady.
"He's in a similar position to Lar Corbett in that he hasn't done any hurling or hasn't trained in three months," added Allen.
Allen admitted he was surprised at the news last week that Corbett was returning to the Tipperary squad, but believes that he won't play any part on Sunday.
"From what I was hearing, I didn't think he would be back. Whether Sunday is too early or not for him to be playing, I'm not sure," he said.
Limerick are still reeling from the loss of Seamus Hickey through an elbow injury sustained in a club match, which will rule him out for up to eight weeks.
"We were looking at him coming back for the league and he would add a new impetus to our back line. He had a full game since the league and he was very good, very fit and very enthusiastic and he's a huge loss," he said.
Allen conceded that he can't gauge what to expect from his team after operating in Division 1B of the hurling league during the spring.
"Of course it's a huge disadvantage. The league, as it is, is going to marginalise certain counties. It's going to do nothing to develop hurling for the counties that are in Division 1B again next year," he said.
"It's very hard to gauge where we are at, given that we weren't playing in the 'A' division. We have played Dublin and Galway in challenge games, we did beat Dublin. Dublin were understrength, as we were ourselves against Galway.
"In terms of training, it has been very good, there is a very good work ethic, a good atmosphere and our inter-house matches are very good. I'd be happy enough that we are in a good place."
After five years out of inter-county management, Allen has detected little difference despite the pace of change that is regularly touted from year to year.
"Strength and conditioning player wise, it has changed. It's expected now by everybody," he said. "They are all doing it. Before, you might have the Sean Ogs of this world doing it, but now it's expected that everybody is doing it.
"The 2006 All-Ireland final and the recent league final had a lot of similarities in the way Kilkenny played, crowding out the Cork half-forward line. I don't think it has changed very much. Kilkenny have raised the bar very high, Tipperary have almost matched it -- they matched it once. Everybody else has fallen off the pace a bit.
"Generally I don't see much difference in terms of preparation. There is a huge amount being put into the game, what the players are doing -- not alone on the nights that they are training, but on the nights they aren't training, the night they are staying in, the amounts they are eating. Cork were looking after that side in 2005 and 2006, so I don't see much difference."
Allen is convinced that Limerick can build a bright future around the talents of forwards like Hannon, Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling, who comes into the championship mix this weekend.
"Limerick, if they can stay together and sing off the same hymn sheet, will be a force," he said. "Maybe this year will be too early, but with the success of Ardscoil Ris, they certainly have a lot of good players coming through."
Allen agrees with Brian Cody that referees are being placed under too much pressure to officiate games in a certain way or else risk not getting bigger games later in the year, and he would like to see an advantage rule being brought in to Gaelic games.
"They are under pressure if they want to be doing the big games, then they have to make the decisions to the letter of the law. They are making their decisions in real time. It's easy for us," he said.
"The game is very physical. The players are so much stronger, the hits are much harder. I'd like to see an advantage rule, that a player who creates an advantage is allowed to take it. Sometimes it's a decided disadvantage when you are blown back."